May 22, 2013
Today, the Chicago Board of Education (BOE) voted in support of 50 recommendations presented by Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Barbara Byrd-Bennett that will consolidate underutilized schools and programs to provide students with the quality, 21st century education they need to succeed in the classroom.
After feedback from thousands of parents and community members, CEO Byrd-Bennett recommended that 50 underutilized schools and programs be consolidated into higher-performing Welcoming Schools starting this fall. After taking into consideration ongoing feedback from the community and Board members, and input from hearing officer reports, she removed four schools from her initial list of those under consideration for closure, delayed closure for another by one year and removed one school for consideration for turnaround.
“I want to thank each member of the Chicago Board of Education for their tireless efforts and commitment to this process, and to the thousands of parents, teachers, students, and other community members who took the time to share invaluable feedback that helped shape and guide this entire process,” said CEO Byrd-Bennett. “But our work is just beginning – and CPS cannot do this work alone. With parents as active partners and an engaged community, there is no limit to what our children can achieve. I look forward to working together with parents and our school communities to create a fresh, positive start for all students at their new school this fall.”
Board members have been rigorously engaged with CPS management and communities throughout this process. Each attended multiple community meetings, reviewed dozens of reports and analysis, received feedback at multiple Board meetings, walked Safe Passage routes at Welcoming Schools and visited every school proposed for closure. Board members have also participated in multiple briefings with CPS staff, challenging and questioning all recommendations to ensure that their questions and issues raised by the community have been addressed for each and every school.
By consolidating underutilized and under-resourced schools, CPS can redirect its limited resources into higher performing Welcoming Schools that will provide the investments needed to create a quality, 21st century education for every child. These investments include:
- Air conditioning in every classroom
- A library in every school
- iPads for all students in grades 3-8
- New and upgraded technology supports including expanded Internet bandwidth
- Improved ADA accessibility
- Upgraded facilities and cosmetic improvements, including fresh paint, masonry work, new windows, new ceilings and floors, and others
- Improved food service capacity through enhanced lunch rooms and food services as needed to accommodate and service the new welcoming school student body
- Customized school safety plans, including Safe Passage programs at every welcoming to provide safe routes to and from school
CPS is also adding 10 new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs, six new International Baccalaureate (IB) programmes and a new Fine Arts program in Welcoming Schools to ensure that students in every neighborhood have access to high-quality programs.
To ease the transition and provide students with a safe and positive learning environment at all Welcoming Schools in the fall, CPS is putting in place robust social and emotional supports to help students develop the skills to cope with change, CPS is also developing cultural integration programs for students, parents and staff to get to know each other and to a build strong, supportive school communities amongst both the closing and welcoming schools in advance of the start of the school year. Each school will convene working groups to share best practices to ensure the welcoming school community encompasses the success of both prior schools.
CPS and the Chicago Police Department (CPD) are working in partnership with each school community and other city agencies to expand Safe Passage and provide safe and secure routes to and from school, and safe learning environments inside the classroom. This collaboration builds upon the work CPS and CPD do every day through its Safe Passage partnership at nearly 40 schools. Over the last two years, schools with Safe Passage programs have seen attendance rise by 7%; crime in the immediate vicinity of schools with Safe Passage decreased by 20%; and serious incidents amongst students decreased by 27%.
CEO Byrd-Bennett’s proposal to consolidate underutilized schools was informed by the recommendations of the independent Commission on School Utilization and a comprehensive and coordinated engagement process over seven months that allowed over 34,000 members of the school community to provide feedback. This unprecedented level of community engagement allowed CPS to develop consistent and objective criteria to remove 277 of 330 underutilized schools from consideration for closure.
“From the start, community feedback has driven every step of this process and will drive the ongoing development of our transition plans for every school,” Byrd-Bennett said. “We will continue to engage with the community and work in partnership with them to ensure a safe, smooth transition for students this fall.”
In the coming weeks, CPS will work to finalize draft transition plans, finalize Safe Passage routes, and identify fall enrollment at each Welcoming School. CPS is currently meeting with principals, LSCs, and parents at all welcoming and closing schools to incorporate their feedback into the draft transition and safety plans. CPS must also identify the proper enrollment at each Welcoming School to help prepare principals to budget for adequate classroom resources and sufficient school staffing.
While CPS has arranged for every child to have a designated spot in a higher-performing welcoming school, some parents may consider alternative options for their child. To ensure every student has all the necessary resources on day one of the 2013-14 school year, every parent and guardian must enroll their child in-person by May 31 in their designated welcoming school. Parents and guardians can enroll their child at all designated sending and welcoming schools. Each school will hold extended enrollment hours during the regular school day and until 7 pm on May 23 and 24, and from May 28 to May 31. In addition, families can enroll in-person at the CPS Central Office or through an enrollment fair, which will hosted by your Network Offices by May 31.
Chicago Public Schools serves 403,000 students in 681 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.